Mission: Create my perfect pencil skirt

I flipping love a good pencil skirt, me.

Wearable muslin purple pencil skirt with scarf1

By far the most worn item in my wardrobe is a jersey double-knit black pencil skirt – bought from H&M for my 19th birthday.  If I were to lose anything in my wardrobe, I’d probably be most upset about this – things you can just throw on in the morning for an early start at work really are priceless.

Pencil skirts are one of those great wardrobe staples. But I can’t say I’ve yet made the “perfect” pencil skirt. Oh, but I have tried – even made one of those wearable muslin things.

Gertie's New Book For Better Sewing

Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing

As a little treat to myself, I bought Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing, which has reams of glorious patterns plus plenty of room for alterations. I traced out the pencil skirt pattern last night with every intention of cutting the cheap-ish floral poplin I’d bought for a wearable muslin.

But, to date, I haven’t had the best of luck when it comes to pencil skirts. They may be my favourite item to wear, but not to make – odd, really, as you would have thought two straight seams and a few darts make for some easy-peasy sewing. But get some measurements slightly off and you can end up with the dreaded wrinkles, which just ruin the whole effect if you ask me.

So, before trying what will be my third pencil skirt pattern in recent years, I’ve decided to put the breaks on and maybe, actually, do a PROPER muslin this time. As in, one I will take apart and keep for future pencil skirtness.

For one thing, in Gertie’s book, the patterns are adjusted to take into account that most women are bigger size in the hips than they are in the waist. Not me!

But if I nail this with a decent muslin, then there’s nothing stopping me from creating pencil skirts in every colour of the rainbow… not to mention the other garments which build upon the foundation of this skirt block in the book.

So that was a very roundabout way of saying that I had planned to sew loads tonight, but actually, I’ve decided to put the brakes on.

Or I may have just sat and watched the Comic Relief Great British Bake Off and left the sewing too late…

Sew Colette : When life gets in the way

sew colette meringue sewalong

The Meringue skirts for the Sew Colette sewalong look absolutely amazing! Hats off to those of you who got them finished because the ones I’ve seen on the Flickr group are amazing. One of my favourites so far is Lucille’s two-tone beauty, which you can read about here.

Sadly, this is what mine looks like at the moment. (excuse the crappy phone-camera shot, my camera is broken) Hopefully I’ll get it done this week so I can get involved with the Pastille dress, but for now, I’m a little behind.

Life gets in the way of sewing sometimes. It’s a topic I’ve touched on before – the course I’m doing is pretty demanding and while 2012 has been much better in terms of sewing than the beginning of 2011 was, sometimes I get home and don’t much feel like sewing at all.

The logo for our in-house paper. 

Let’s take yesterday for example. Far from being entirely unproductive, yesterday our team put together our very first newspaper in the first of our 18 production days.

These are part of our assessment – basically, we all take different roles within the newsroom and work together to create the paper by our deadline of 4.30. So yesterday, instead of being a student, seamstress or a blogger I had to put on a Chief-Sub hat and hope for the best.

Basically, I was the one in charge of the layout of the paper, what went where and assigning stories to people who checked them over and made sure they fit into boxes on the page.

…it’s alright, we got the paper out, we survived!

I have a tendency to match up new experiences to various hobbies I have. My first production day as a whole was a lot like the very first time I had a full-contact fight in Karate – I certainly felt like I’d had the wind knocked out of me after both days and I’ll let you guess which one had me sat with a bag of frozen peas on my head for the evening…

In some ways, when we saw the entire paper up on the board completely finished, it reminded me a bit of the first time I ever sewed a piece of clothing.

By my sewing standards now, it was utter crap – the seams weren’t finished, pretty sure the waistband didn’t match up and the invisible zipper was definitely on show. It’s also made from a quilting cotton which creases really easily (huh, sounds familiar…) and I’m pretty sure it’s falling to pieces.

We’ll probably look back on what we’ve done in our first paper and cringe at  the mistakes we made – but there’s still this sense of accomplishment (and relief!) at creating the product itself.

My first ever skirt is hidden somewhere at the bottom of my drawer… what about you? Any first sewing memories? I’ll try and dig out some pictures so I can show you, but I’d love to have a look at any of yours – the good, the bad and the ugly!

Caitlin Moran on clothes

Has anyone here read Caitlin Moran’s How To Be a Woman?

caitlin moran how to be a woman

I’ve been re-reading it for the second time, and came across this on page 212:

“Before the high street, women would make their own clothes, or see a dressmaker, so that everything we wore was an honest expression of who we were, and what we were comfortable with – within the constraints of fashion at the time, anyway.

With the advent of mass fashion, however, not a single item of clothing sold is ‘for’ the woman who buys it. Everything we see in Topshop and Zara and Mango and Urban Outfitters and Next and Peacocks and New Look is made for a wholly imaginary woman  – an idea in the designer’s head – and we buy it if we like it, say 70 per cent. That’s about as good as it gets. We rarely, if ever, find something that is 100 per cent ‘us’, and that we truly desire – although we never admit this to ourselves. Most women are walking around in things they’re imagining to be that little bit better. An inch longer here. Without that braiding. In a slightly darker blue. It’s the first thing we say to each other: “I wish they’d had it without the collar!”

Because if you know I don’t like the collar, then you’ll know who I’m really trying to be.”

I’ve lost count of the amount of garments I’ve bought which don’t quite fit the bill. The beauty of sewing and refashioning your own means you’re completely in control of this process. Making something from scratch means absolutely every detail is up to you.

In this respect, it’d be interesting to take a look at sewing from a feminist perspective. After all, sewing for yourself isn’t sewing for some “imaginary woman”. You’re in control of every detail, and you don’t have to ‘make do’ with a garment which doesn’t quite fit you.

It’s food for thought at any rate. Moran and I may not agree on high heels, but I think she’s spot on with the clothing industry here. What do you think?